Saturday, April 12, 2008

Ferals Top to Toe Challenge

Naomi invited me to Ferals last year shortly after I picked up my knitting needles again. The first time, I looked through the window at all of them and went to work out instead. The next time, I went in and very self-consciously sat as close as possible to Naomi while I knitted on something conspicuously NOT Fair Isle. I continued to attend, with or without Naomi, and have gradually met and been talking with many of the members. One meeting Karen Campbell delivered the Cotton Jeans yarn I had ordered from Two Swans, another meeting Sandra got my address and sent me a copy of the Fair Isle Tam and Vest pattern from Vogue magazine. At another meeting, Wendy showed me her third beautiful Martha sweater from the Rowan Studio Two book, and I was hooked (unfortunately, the book is now out of print, but I did manage to track down a copy to buy. Phew!). I can't name them all - I'm just trying to say how amazed and grateful I feel to find such a graceful group of interesting, talented and kind women to spend a couple of hours with every two weeks or so, and how lucky I feel to be among them.

I don't remember who actually set the top to toe challenge to have a Fair Isle knit hat or a pair of Fair Isle socks completed between January 1 and April 1, but I was determined to try something new. I heard about Sandy Blue's Midnight Sun tam then saw it at Churchmouse when I was attending Janine's Color in Fair Isle class and decided it was so beautiful, I wanted to try it. Once I decided, Karen delivered the yarn and pattern so swiftly, I didn't have a chance to feel panicky. I have shared my experience with it along the way, from the German cast-on to finally deciding with which colors to replace Bracken and Yellow ochre. Sandy talked with me not only in person at a Ferals meeting to tell me how she went about choosing new colors when shades get discontinued, but later by phone when I had novice-tam-knitter questions about the wheel chart. I'm not a fast knitter, and am even slower when doing the stranded knitting since I'm still learning technique, but even I thought I could finish the tam by April 1. And I did finish the knitting at the Ferals on March 31, with help from Rebecca and Naomi reminding me to read my color chart AND my knitted item, and with Melinda showing me the spit splice color change to avoid the hundreds (as it seemed) of ends to knit in. So finally, here it is!

The show and tell was this past Monday April 7 - I took my camera to capture images of some of the completed tams. Still to come are Wendy's re-colored Midnight Sun tam and Diana's hat - maybe more that I don't even know about. I'm sure there must have been more hats and some socks that didn't make it to the meeting. The folks who brought completed items were very generously given prizes from Karen Campbell and Linda K (two people I neglected to photograph) - I was lucky to receive the Koigu shown at the top, and am planning a pair of ribbed socks as soon as possible. Other prizes included pattern books, other colors of Koigu, needles, and I can't remember what all.

The knitting wasn't all hats and socks! Here's Lori on the left with her own intricate and beautifully colored design becoming a cardigan. She began this design in Janine's class when and that's when we met her and invited her to Ferals - she's been a devotee ever since! She also got in the spirit of the challenge and designed and knitted her tam in one day. And here's Janine on the right with her Armenian technique Leo sweater - this is another classic in the making to join Janine's collection of heirloom sweaters.

Left are four of the tams from the back: left is Lori, my Midnight Sun, Norma's snowy design, and Karen Hust's beautiful tam of Sandy Blue's other color way. Right is same lovely ladies in their tams. Below left is Wendy wearing Karen's tam and below right is Karen wearing my tam.

I loved being involved with the challenge, and it was a thrill to knit something so lovely and complex. I plan to knit another one and try more colors or maybe design my own.

It was a Tam Good Time!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Madrona Novice Part Two and beyond

My experienced friends coached me to be sure to allow some free time, so Friday morning I got in a workout at the nearby Y (since the hotel's workout room was "under construction" like so much else at Hotel Murano) and a walk to the bank and post office. Then I met Naomi, Melinda, Ellen and Ruth for lunch at the Japanese restaurant across from the hotel - there was a wait, but it was delicious and filling.

My afternoon class was Phoenix from the Ashes with Lucy Neatby - I had tried for her finishing class and while I didn't know what to expect from this one, I hoped for (and got!) a treat. We began with grafting and went on from there - it was great fun. We actually did things I had only read about, and I hadn't known anything about her intense, inventive style. When I think of her now, the words "never say die" are what I remember. While I'd like to have all of her DVD's, I settled for purchasing one at the marketplace this time.

Lucy also was the speaker that evening and I hadn't had enough of her yet, so hearing more was energizing. I wish I had photographed her - I haven't seen a single image of her that captured that personality. After the talk, the instructor's gallery was also inspiring: Ruth was like a rock star with all the people gathered around her and her tables of lovely items knit from Kauni yarn. She had her knitted basket pins for sale and they sold in a flash - I barely managed to get one myself!

Saturday was my morning with Stephanie Pearl-McPhee; another real treat! Besides all the students being able to sit and knit while she talked, the information she delivered was specific, useful, AND entertaining. I was able to use one of her sock tips in combination with a pick-up technique from Margaret Radcliffe's Sunday morning class - I can't remember when I've taken classes that so immediately applied to what I'm doing in real life.

I went to Janine's Color Reunion at noon and it was fun to see everyone's progress. I only had my Midnight Sun tam with me since I planned to change out two of the colors, but some folks just had great things. I might have liked Sheila's wristlets best; see what I mean?! Janine talked about how yarn manufacturers are continually reducing the number of colors they offer, and how every color cut from the line impacts the stranded knitter's ability to choose the colors to acheive the amazing subtleties characterized by Fair Isle knitting. We all talked about the value of supporting the yarn industry by continuing to knit traditional Fair Isle designs, and Janine went so far as saying that today's knitters from outside Fair Isle may be the ones to save the tradition, which doesn't appear to be valued as much on Fair Isle as we think it should be! All the more reason for me to chip away at my attempts at this skill with Sandy Blue's Midnight Sun tam for the Ferals challenge.

Saturday afternoon was spent visiting with people in the rotunda outside the Marketplace. Sat with Ryan and Kathy, then with Sam. Went through the marketplace with Melinda, back with Rebecca, a couple of trips on my own... it's hard to not spend money when I can't stay out! There were so many lovely yarns and useful tools, dvd's, books... I bought every color of pin Jamesen's and a couple of colors of J&S for good measure at Two Swans Yarns... Karen's rainbow display of yarns was just irresistable!

The much anticipated banquet had wonderful food, I'm sure, since my choice was salmon. Amazingly, foodie that I am, memory of what I ate was completely knocked out of my mind by what I heard from Judith McKenzie. I knew only a bit about her, but when she began to speak about bison, I felt like I was at a National Geographic lecture. Her authenticity was apparent from her specific information, much of which was first-hand, once she completed the history portion. I was so entralled that I uncharacteristically asked a couple of questions. And I loved the yarns which were serving as the centerpieces on the tables... at my table, we thought we were going to get an opportunity to win some!

My final class was again with Margaret Radcliffe, then I was off home. George did a fine job of taking care of the house and dog in my absence - in fact Maverick didn't really seem to need me back at all for the first 30 minutes or so. The only part of Madrona I thought George would be interested in was the talk on bison, and I did my best to recount much of what I learned to him. Even with my minimal capsule of information, he was interested enough to get right on the computer to look up bison vs grizzly on you-tube (unfortunately finding only a video where the grizzly was successful in getting the calf - heartbreaking to watch the mother bison unable to save her baby).

It was hard to break the habit of knitting at every opportunity, so I was glad Monday was a holiday for us City workers. Ferals on Monday evening was quite fun with a very large group including Ruth. Sandy Blue was even there and gave me some insight into color replacement ideas; I had already replaced Bracken with J&S #FC10, and I tried Crimson in place of Yellow Ochre that evening, but took it out as soon as I got home (it was right next to Leaf and ended up looking like a Christmas hat). George chose the color I ended up using: J&S #9143. I was considering Sorbet, and it would have been nice too... another hat, another day?

I did go in to work on Tuesday, then attended Ruth's Design class at Village Yarn & Tea on Wednesday. It was a lovely day and comforting reminder that returning home from Madrona doesn't have to mean an end to my knitting retreat. Some of my favorite people were in class with me, and the light in the room was a teaser for the spring weather to come. Ruth is a charming, natural teacher who shared with us, encouraged us, and enjoyed everyone there - possibly as much as we enjoyed her! We listened, tried on her designs (photo at left is of Victoria in Ruth's skirt, with Rebecca), then began designing and knitting for ourselves. Besides starting my very own wristlets, I loved getting this wonderful photo of Rebecca and Ruth together, as well as the one Rebecca took of me (wearing one of Ruth's sweaters) with Ruth.

Madrona proved to be completely inspirational to me, if I could only find the time to knit everything I want to knit in addition to having my regular life. Maybe that's a future Madrona class: "How to find time to knit as much as you want." Still, I'm persevering, and will update with photos of "Life After Madrona 2008" next time!